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    ‘We must do better protecting our Black Women’ says LSU organization following Kinnedy Smith’s murder

    Baton Rouge Police arrested the man accused of fatally stabbing Kinnedy Smith, a 21-year-old Shreveport native over the weekend. According to police, 27-year-old Connor Regan, stabbed Smith to death during a domestic dispute and has been charged with second-degree murder.

    Smith graduated from Louisiana State University in December 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in international studies and Spanish. Her friends described her as a selfless, bright soul to everyone she came in contact with. She also participated in community service and advocacy work in Ecuador and Columbia. She was working as an intake specialist at Dudley DeBosier law firm in Baton Rouge.

    The LSU Black Women’s Empowerment Initiative penned this letter about Smith’s passing calling for justice and better protection of Black women.

    Kinnedy Smith letter

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    Domestic violence may increase during COVID closures, help exists

    Domestic violence issues may increase in frequency, intensity and case number as a result of the closure of workplaces and schools in our area. “Spending days or weeks with an abusive partner or family member opens the door for immense physical and emotional trauma,” said Mayor-President Sharon Broome. “Unfortunately, this is the reality that COVID-19 presents to many of our neighbors, family, and friends.”

    Here are resources:

    Emergency Shelter

    • Iris Domestic Violence Center http://www.stopdv.org (225) 389-3001
    • State Hotline 1-888-411-1333
    • National Hotline 1-800-799-7233
    • The Butterfly Society (225) 347-7725; thebutterflysociety@gmail.com

    Individual Counseling Services

    • Free individual counseling services through Catholic Charities (225) 389-4736
    • Family Service of Greater Baton Rouge (225) 924-0123
    • Children’s Advocacy Center (225) 343-1984

    Primary Care and Behavioral Health

    •  Capital Area Human Services (225) 288-1044

    Support Groups

    • Domestic Violence Community Group Counseling (225) 389-4736
    • Hope & Healing Homicide Survivors Support Group (225) 389-4736

    Food

    • Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank (225) 359-9940
    • Southeast Ministries Association Inc. (225) 924-5122

    Clothing

    •  St. Vincent de Paul (any location)
    • Salvation Army of Greater Baton Rouge (225) 355-4483

    Financial Services

    • Crime Victims Reparations (225) 239-7850
    • Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Baton Rouge (225) 336-8700
    • Salvation Army of Greater Baton Rouge (225) 355-4483

    Legal Aid

    •  Southeast Louisiana Legal Services (225) 448-0080

    Employment Services

    • Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Baton Rouge (225) 336-8700

    Childcare Assistance

    • Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) (877) 453-2721
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    AKA hosted candlelight vigil set for October 27

    Local elected officials, law enforcement officers, community groups and churches will gather for a candlelight vigil on Thursday, October 27, at 6 p.m., on the steps of the State Capitol, to remember those who died at the hands of loved ones.  The public is invited to attend the vigil.

    Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, Nu Gamma Omega Chapter (Baton Rouge), is organizing the vigil in memory of two sorority sisters, Aleria Cyrus Reed and Monica Butler Johnson, who died at the hands of their estranged husbands.

    Rev. Leo Cyrus Sr., the uncle of Aleria Cyrus Reed and pastor of New Hope and Second Baptist churches, and Rev. Linda Joseph, associate pastor at Neely United Methodist Church, will conduct the candlelight prayer service.

    Preceding the vigil, State Rep. Patricia H. Smith, D-Baton Rouge) will discuss the victim protection laws passed during the recent legislative session, followed by East Baton Rouge Parish Assistant District Attorney Melanie Fields; Baton Rouge Chief of Police Carl Dabadie, Jr., and City Constable Reginald R. Brown, Sr., who will explain how law enforcement officers and the courts are using the state’s domestic violence laws to protect the innocent.  Twahna Harris, executive director of The Butterfly Society, will also speak.

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    ​Sparking outrage

    Group says Sen. Brown’s two arrests expose double standard in fight against violence on women

    “It’s time to get people stirred up, protesting, and even mad, said Twahna Harris, a passionate domestic violence advocate. “We have to move and get people off the sidelines. We have to take to the street and protest against domestic violence! It’s going to take a movement to end this!” 

    With the recent high profile murders and assaults of women by their husbands, Harris said, now is the perfect time for elected officials and the community as a whole to take deliberate stand against domestic violence and “say we will no longer allow this.”

    Harris said the recent arrest of state Sen. Troy Brown (D-Geismer) gives legislators an easy opportunity to demonstrate that domestic violence will not be tolerated. “It shouldn’t matter who you are, when you commit the crime of domestic violence you should be punished.” 

    Her voice is adamant and anyone who knows her can see how vigilant Harris is in her quest to end domestic violence. As executive director of the Butterfly Society, a nonprofit advocacy group, Harris has been educating groups and advocating for new domestic violence protection laws for nearly 20 years. 

    “When you, as a leader, aren’t walking the walk that you talk you have to be held accountable,” Harris said. “It is unacceptable when we allow our leaders to get away with what we’ve allowed Sen. Brown to get away with. He should be held to the same standards. As voters we have to be very clear that we are not going to stand for it.”

    The Butterfly Society has taken the message of accountability across south Louisiana into barbershops, churches, policy meetings, and candidate forums. They educate and support victims in escaping abusive relationships. The group has established memorial gardens as a place to remember victims in the downtowns of Baton Rouge, Zachary, New Roads, and Baker.

    “We want to make sure that the victims are never forgotten,” she said. “We want to speak their names. These gardens can be a way to begin the conversation in communities.” 

    In 2014 and 2015, Louisiana ranked 4th in the nation for domestic violence. “We can do better,” Harris said. “Women are dying at an alarming rate.”

    “Domestic violence is a dark and lonely place to be,” Harris said. “I’ve learned that what we go through isn’t always just for us, it is to prevent and empower others.” The Butterfly Society was established as a nonprofit in 2014 after decades of advocacy and partnership-building. “We believe in being reached. We want people to know that we are here for you, to support you, and to empower you. There is life after domestic violence. You can live and survive.”

    Harris said the message of support is clear, however, her concern is “as long as we continue to do business as usual and not punish attackers, we will continue to lose our families.”

    “These lives are too valuable for us to continue to lose through domestic fights when we can get them the help they need to escape,” said Jane Yellow, a 26-year domestic violence survivor and author of It Only Happened Once. Yellow was attacked and left for dead by her husband of 11 months who served less than two years in prison for battery. “Policies have to continue changing,” she said. “Laws have to be enforceable. Abusers must be severely punished for this to stop… There has to be justice.”

    One solution is to have men on the front line, said Harris.

    “We need men standing up and saying, ‘No longer will I take another woman, sister, mother, cousin, teacher, or friend being abused at the hand of someone who is supposed to love her’,” said Harris. 

    The Butterfly Society educates church leaders and pastors — who are often men — on how to have conversations with other men on how to treat women during times of anger. The group also reminds the men that one in four men are abused by their partner. Their conversations at local barbaershops  allowed the volunteers and men to be open. “The dialogue was so powerful,” Harris said. “Men are willing to commit to take a stand.”

    The Butterfly Society will host its annual Painting the City Purple, a weeklong observance to raise awareness of domestic violence for youth, men, and women Oct 3 – 7 in Baton Rouge.

    By Candace J. Semien
    Jozef Syndicate reporter

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